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Culture & Agile & Change
“Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast”
“Could you please get those morons out of the road!”
NY Scrum Users Group
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About Joe Little
• A CST (Scrum Trainer) [CSM, CSPO, CSP], Agile coach, MBA. Former
English major. Southerner and New Yorker.
• More business-oriented than most agile guys. More into Lean and Business
Value Engineering. 8 courses with Jeﬀ Sutherland.
• Find me at:
• Blog: http://www.leanagiletraining.com/blog/
• Twitter: jhlittle
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The worst possible slide deck
• Because I hate slide decks.
• “We’re talking here!”
• What I have learned so far....
• But jam packed with friends. And resources.
• “Go conﬁdently in the direction of your dreams.” H.D. Thoreau
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• Summary of key ideas
• Some basics (Kotter)
• Why is it hard?
• My suggestions
• Some friends and guides (Satir, Vodde, Hofstede, Pink, Manns & Rising,
Denning, Apello, Kotter, Gat, Ohno, Drucker, Takeuchi, Nonaka, Mezick)
• Some fun quotes (useful?)
• A question. And your questions (and some responses)
• You can do it! (a pat on the back) Vaya con Dios!
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• “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. ”
• Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The Social Contract.
• “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set her free.” Michelangelo
• But: You must dream your own dream.
• Second sentence (J-J R): “Those who think themselves the masters of others
are indeed greater slaves than they.”
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The Problem (practical & concrete)
Take one relatively small group
& get them to understand
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1. It is easy to 'work hard' at changing the culture and get nowhere.
2. It is easy to change the culture a little bit.
3. Change will happen; your only job is to inﬂuence it. And you can.
4. Actions speak louder than words.
5. "Become the change you want to see in the world." (Gandhi)
6. "Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you."
7. "When in doubt tell the truth. It will confound your enemies and
astound your friends." Mark Twain
8. "Just dance." Lady Gaga. Ride the wave.
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Gaga (oh, yeah)
I've had a little bit too much, much
All of the people start to rush.
Start to rush by.
A dizzy twister dance
Can't ﬁnd my drink or man.
Where are my keys, I lost my phone.
What's going on on the ﬂoor?
I love this record baby, but I can't see straight anymore.
Keep it cool what's the name of this club?
I can't remember but it's alright, I'm alright.
Just dance. Gonna be okay.
Just dance. Spin that record babe.
Just dance. Gonna be okay.
Dance. Dance. Dance. Just dance.
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King Canute and the waves
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Why is this culture thing so hard?
• We don’t know what we are talking about.
• We don’t know what to do.
• Our expectations for speed of success are unrealistic.
• We don’t describe success well.
• It is big. And feels amorphous.
• It’s an instinctive / emotional
thing more than a rational thing.
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There is no magic.
• Not in 1215 (Magna Carta)
• Not in 1776 (or 1781) (the Declaration of Independence, the Battle of
• Not on June 6, 1944 (D-Day)
• Not in 1989 (the fall of the Iron Curtain)
• But ‘impossible’ things happen daily.
• Note to self: These events involved multiple people.
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Some basics - 1
• Culture deﬁned. “Culture consists of group norms of behavior and the
underlying shared [tacit] values that help keep those norms in place.” Ex:
• Culture starts where? “It usually comes from the founders of the group. For
whatever reason, they value certain things and behave in ways that seem to
help the group succeed. Success is key. So it seeps into the group’s DNA.”
• How change? “A powerful person at the top, or a large enough group from
anywhere in the organization, decides the old ways are not working...”
• “Everything changes, nothing remains the same.” Buddha, - 2000 years.
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Some basics - 2
• “A powerful person at the top, or a large enough group
from anywhere in the organization, decides the old
ways are not working, ﬁgures out a change vision,
starts acting differently, and enlists others to act
differently. If the new actions produce better results, if
the results are communicated and celebrated, and if
they are not killed off by the old culture ﬁghting its
rear-guard action, new norms will form and new
shared values will grow.”
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What do we want to change, really?
• Thoughts. Why? So that they will decide and act diﬀerently on small matters.
• Actions (behavior). That ‘they’ will allow agile (the big parts of it) to happen?
• It is (ok, only feels):
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Some initial ideas - 1
1. “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” Henry Ford
2. Show up.
3. Gather your ‘friends’.
4. Decide what culture means to you. Be as speciﬁc as possible.
5. Pull together some ideas about people. You’re going to discover a lot about
people. Your new BFFs. You need ideas to help talk about individuals and
groups of people.
6. Decide how you would know some useful ‘change’ had happened. (EX:
“They allow us to start a 2nd Scrum Team and ﬁx these 3 impediments.”)
7. Deﬁne the culture you want. Incremental-ize it.
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Some initial ideas - 2
1. Map the culture. Maybe: The white hats, the gray, the black hats.
2. Decide who needs changing / ﬁxing. Prioritize.
3. Know your enemy.
4. “Q: How do you eat an elephant? A: One spoonful at a time.”
Make a list of small ‘features.’ (Change backlog & roadmap!)
5. Fix a few people at a time. Maybe only one at a time.
6. Track progress
7. Tell success stories.
8. Expect ‘failures’. Get back in the saddle. Learn from them.
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Virginia Satir - Change curve
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Mind games /// sympathy
• “Some people, if they don’t already know it, you can’t
explain it to them.” Yogi Berra
• This means: Understand how they think. And explain
things in a way that suits their thinking, their basic
• Seek ﬁrst to understand, then to be understood.
(Based on the prayer of St. Francis)
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Let me be clear
• Be hard and be soft
• Be aggressive and be gentle
• Be masculine and be feminine
• No contradictions here!
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So, I brought you some friends...
• “Dante, here’s Virgil. Virgil, here’s my good friend Dante. He wants to go on a
diﬃcult journey. Help him to ﬁnd the straight path.”
• Some guides...for your journey.
• Yes, an interesting journey.
• Look at it this way: You’ll take
some interesting pictures and
have lots of stories to tell!
Francesca and Paolo..., Scheffer
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Bas Vodde & Geert Hofstede
• Bas is an Agile Coach & Trainer. Geert writes many books on culture, eg,
• See Bas’s presentations here: http://www.odd-e.com/index.php?
• Especially: “Scrum doesn’t work in China?”
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1. Power Distance. (High is ‘bad’)
2. Individualism versus Collectivism (former is ‘bad’)
3. Masculinity versus Femininity (latter is ‘good’)
4. Uncertainty Avoidance (High is ‘bad’)
5. Long-term Orientation vs Short-term (L-T is ‘good’, since it leads one to be
6. Indulgence versus Restraint (Seems indulgence has more fun)
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1. Cultures are complex.
2. Most people can’t explain their culture.
3. Every culture sees agile a diﬀerent way.
4. Every culture in some ways supports agile.
5. Every culture in some ways rejects agile.
6. Every culture has a paradoxical, contradictory mix of elements.
7. Your job: change the balance.
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What are we talking here?
• It probably is not brain surgery with a long sword aimed at their neck.
Not a total transplant.
• More like opening the cranial lid, and putting you hands in -- and squishing
around in the wet stuﬀ a bit. A tweak here, a pinch there... More subtle. But
soon you hear ‘em singing a new tune.
• Wear gloves. And wash afterward. Please. (It’s messy!)
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1. You can. You really can.
Lots of stories, real stories, where people just like you did.
I believe in you.
You must believe that something is worth changing. And you must have
something to change toward. (Agile? Scrum? X?)
If you do....where there is a will, there is a way.
2. You are not alone.
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The Boxing Metaphor - 7 rounds
Just a little patience baby.
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One issue: Honesty
• Reality: “Never tell the truth!”
• Lies, damn lies, and statistics.
• CYA, the blame game, ‘performance reviews’
• The amount of dishonesty in corporation is... amazing.
• Failure? No, never happened to me!
• It’s not a lie; it’s a report!
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One more time: where is culture?
• In each of the individuals, or in the group?
• Do we change one person at a time, or can we only change a ‘group’ at a
• Do we think of it as a virus that spreads throughout the bodies in the group?
And the group sustains it, even as we think we eliminate the virus in one
• Joe’s bias: Often it is best to ﬁx one person at a time. (Start with yourself.)
• Joe’s bias: Culture is like that part of the iceberg ‘beneath the water.’
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To be successful...
• You need structures and patterns you can act on.
• But you also need to see the problem and take action within a bigger, ‘known’
context -- some meta-structure, some meta-patterns.
• We are making those visible too.
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Why? Knowledge Workers are different.
• Drive by Daniel Pink.
• Three Key Ideas:
• Autonomy - the ability to choose what and how tasks are completed
• Mastery - the process of becoming adept at an activity
• We have to ‘organize’ things a diﬀerent way now. People will produce more...
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Mary Lynn Manns & Linda Rising
• Fearless Change (book)
• “Leading Fearless Change” (article)
• A framework for thinking about change.
• 48 Patterns for change.
• Use one each day.
• Rinse and repeat.
• “Little things are big” (Yogi Berra)
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Step By Step (pattern)
• Relieve your frustration at the enormous task
of changing an organization by taking one
small step at a time toward your goal.
• You wonder what your plan should be for
introducing the new idea into your
• Use an incremental approach in the change
initiative, with short-term goals, while
keeping your long-term vision
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a
single step.” Lao-tzu
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Fearless Change (book)
• Experiences (real stories)
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List of Patterns
• Shown from document….
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Where do we go now?
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• The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management (book)
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The Principles of Radical Management
• A shift in goal from making money for shareholders to
delighting customers through continuous innovation.
• A shift in the role of managers from controlling
individuals to enabling self-organizing teams.
• A shift in the way work is coordinated from bureaucracy
to dynamic linking.
• A shift in values from a preoccupation with eﬃciency to
a broader set of values that will foster continuous
• A shift in communications from top-down commands to
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• How To Change the World (book)
• Management 3.0 (book)
• Another guy from the Stoos group.
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• Awareness (of the need to change)
• Desire (to participate and support)
• Knowledge (of how to change and what change looks like)
• Ability (to implement change on a day-to-day basis)
• Reinforcement (to keep the change in place)
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• Disturb the system (it will react in some way)
• Watch the ripples and learn
• If you change yourself, you change the system
• If you change several people, you have changed the system more
• Related: Use their own energy against them. You can ﬁnd a leverage point to
• Complex Adaptive Systems.
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“How do I deal with my crappy organization?”
You have 3 choices (Jurgen says):
• Ignore it
• Quit your job
• Learn about change management
Joe: I like choice #3, but it’s not easy. Doing it, I mean.
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You are in a marathon
• ...and that’s the good news
• Be patient, and you will win (if you deserve to)
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• A Sense of Urgency (book)
• Leading Change (book)
• Buy-In: Saving your good ideas from getting shot down (book)
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The 8 Steps (Kotter)
1. Establishing a sense of urgency (70% fail)
2. Creating the guiding coalition
3. Developing a change vision
4. Communicating the vision for buy-in
5. Empowering broad-based action
6. Generating short-term wins
7. Never letting up
8. Incorporating Changes into the Culture
Note: But it is more subtle than that.
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A Sense of Urgency (Kotter book)
• “Aim for the heart” (an experience)
• “Underlying a true sense of urgency is
a set of feelings:
a compulsive determination
to move, and win, now.”
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• The Concise Executive Guide to Agile (book)
• Key lesson: Speak their language
• A rational presentation.
• Idea: Sometimes all you need is for some naysayers to shut up.
• Related: There are lots of articles that also explain the beneﬁts of agile.
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Chapter 3: How to ﬁt Agile into the fabric of your
• 3 sections:
• Heterogeneous Development Environments
• Performances Measures
• Linking Agile to Planning and Budgeting Processes
Very rational. No discussion of changing ‘culture.’ We are just rationally
It might work some places. Certainly his issues often must be addressed.
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• He is the key guy behind "Lean" (the Toyota Way)
• He changed Toyota from the late 1940's until well into the 1980's.
• He was not ﬁnished when he retired.
• Be patient.
• Read his books!
• He is subtle.
• He oﬀers nothing to attack.
• He speaks common sense (usually not very common).
• He attacks them where they are weakest.
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• Toyota Production System (book)
• Workplace Management (book)
• “All we are doing is looking at the time line, from the moment the customer
gives us an order to the point when we collect the cash. And we are reducing
the time line by reducing the non-value adding wastes.”
• “Why not make the work easier and more interesting so that people do not
have to sweat? The Toyota style is not to create results by working hard. It is
a system that says there is no limit to people’s creativity. People don’t go to
Toyota to ‘work’, they go there to ‘think’.”
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• Key idea:
• Argue for a while.
• Usually the other guy won't agree. (‘People don't resist change, they resist
• So, agree to try an experiment (his idea or yours). And let the experiment
prove that an idea is better (in some way).
• Understand how Agile is like Lean.
• It is hard for any business person to resist Lean.
• If Lean ideas are in your culture, use that.
• Explain Agile in Lean terms.
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• He invented the term “knowledge worker”
• Why do you care?
• Because it changed the game.
• He wrote LOTS of books . And articles.
• “People who don't take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.
People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.”
• “Culture eats strategy for Breakfast” -- Peter Drucker (attributed)
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• “The most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st
century is similarly (50x) to increase the productivity of knowledge work and
• “The most valuable asset of a 21st-century institution (whether business or
nonbusiness) will be its knowledge workers and their productivity.”
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Six major factors determine knowledge-worker
1. Knowledge-worker productivity demands that we ask the question:
“What is the task?”
2. Knowledge Workers have to manage themselves. They have to have
3. Continuing innovation has to be part of the work.
4. Knowledge work requires continuous learning
5. Productivity: Quality is at least as important
6. Knowledge-worker productivity requires that the knowledge worker is both
seen and treated as an “asset” rather than a ”cost.” (6a)
7. Requires that knowledge workers want to work for the organization (6b)
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Takeuchi & Nonaka
• They wrote The New New Product Development Game (HBR-1986) - they are
the godfathers of Scrum.
• They explain the mysteries of knowledge work well.
• Use their ideas.
• Use their many books and articles.
• “The Knowledge Creating Company”. Article, also book. (hbr.com)
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• Wrote: The Culture Game. Also: The Open Agile Adoption Handbook (Oct
• Some insights:
• Culture can be hacked
• We want learning organizations
• Game your meetings
• Use a whole bunch of agile ideas to manage the culture change
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What is culture hacking?
• “Culture hacking is the active, intentional and iterative modiﬁcation of existing
• “...with the intent to create a stronger culture of learning.”
• “Culture hackers are...refactoring existing cultural code...so that the overall
system displays more robust performance.”
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Agile Ideas to use in Change
1. Improve the meetings
2. Examine your norms (retrospective / feedback)
3. Be punctual
4. Structure your interactions
5. Announce your intent
6. Conduct frequent experiments
7. Manage visually
8. Inspect frequently (eg, do one ‘sprint’s’ worth of change)
9. Get coached
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Other key insights
• Don’t just ask for ‘change’; deﬁne the change you want.
• He wants: ‘high value on continuous organizational learning’
• Some similarity to “The Knowledge Creating Company”
• It is not just ‘change’ or ‘stop doing that’, but positive and clear.
• The future is not a new plateau!
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“Open Agile Adoption”
• First: Two open space events that time-box a ‘rite of passage’ toward
• Purpose: A more rapid and lasting Agile adoption
• Key: Invitation, engagement, collaboration.
• Adoption ‘sprints’ within the larger time-box.
• See: OpenAgileAdoption.com
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• Yes, it will be hard and frustrating some days. All good work is.
• You can do it! Even you. With help.
• How do I know this?
• With a sense of humor, honesty, love, patience, perseverance, boldness (and
some intelligence) -- you can change the whole world.
But for now, your job is simpler.
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“The future ain’t what it used to be.”
“The game isn’t over ‘til it’s over.”
“Take it with a grin of salt.”
Yogi Berra 65
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• I will make this slide deck available.
• What one thing do you want to act on ﬁrst?
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• Agile trainer and coach.
• Contact me if I can help.